Transforming Geriatric Care with Telehealth

Meri BrickFebruary 24, 20225 minute read

As we are all aware, the COVID-19 pandemic changed the healthcare industry drastically. All care that could be done without an in-person interaction was transitioned to a virtual visit. One group that is reaping major benefits from this digital health model are seniors living independently, those in skilled nursing facilities, or those in assisted living facilities.

In this blog, we are going to discuss the ways telehealth is transforming geriatric care including the benefits it brings to patients and staff, the technology advancements the industry is utilizing, and what this all means for skilled nursing and assisted living facilities of the future.

Without further ado, let’s jump in!

Caring for Seniors Virtually

First, let’s answer the question ‘What is geriatric medicine?” Geriatric medicine, commonly referred to as geriatrics or geriatric care, is a field of medicine that specializes in healthcare for the elderly. Its overall focus is health promotion, prevention, diagnoses, and treatment of diseases and disabilities in older adults, mainly those aged 65 and up.

Now, where does telehealth come into this? When the pandemic took the world by storm, most care that was not an emergency was switched to virtual, including care for seniors. With 85% of individuals aged 65 and older living with at least one chronic condition, this telehealth transition and delivery optimization needed to happen quickly.

With tons of remote patient monitoring devices already on the market, healthcare facilities and elderly patients were able to make the move to virtual care relatively seamlessly. In addition to the ease of use, some of the other benefits that it brought to the senior population include:

  • Independence: Seniors living on their own are now able to seek treatment from the comfort of their own homes when moving into a support facility isn’t a viable option.

  • Accessibility: To piggyback on the last point, seniors also feel like they have greater accessibility to care through virtual alternatives. Saving them the headaches, stress, and (sometimes) discomfort of having to commute to appointments frequently.

  • Convenience: Seniors are saying that virtual care is much more convenient for them than going to in-person appointments. They don’t need to plan their entire day around doctors visits anymore as telehealth allows them to see their physician or specialist in less time, without any heavy lifting.

Now that we covered the benefits that seniors are seeing with virtual care, let’s talk about what types of virtual care are the most popular in the geriatric space.

Synchronous Telehealth

Synchronous telehealth is what most people think of when they hear ‘telehealth’ or ‘virtual visit’. As defined by the United States Department of health and Human Services, “synchronous telehealth happens in live, real-time settings where the patient interacts with a provider.” This type of visit is most commonly used for yearly check ups, medication management, and managing chronic conditions.

Most individuals today have a smartphone or computer that has a camera but seniors are the slowest to adopt this new technology. For synchronous virtual visits, it’s important to have video capabilities. So, if you are a senior receiving care virtually or you are a caregiver of one, make sure you have a camera on the device you are using to log onto your appointment!

Remote Patient Monitoring

Remote patient monitoring (RPM) is another popular method used in geriatric care. The devices used for remote monitoring helps elderly patients live independently with minimal stress and inconvenience. Not only do these devices monitor the individual wearing them but they can report the data directly to the patient’s care team so they can better treat the patient based on their daily reports.

Let’s cover some of the most common types of RPM devices used in geriatric care to increase quality of life:

Wearables

Wearables are the most common monitoring devices and some even say are becoming the standard of care in elderly patients. These devices can monitor a variety of different things including heart rate, oxygen levels, and daily activity (steps taken, miles walked, calories burned).

Some examples of wearable devices on the market, and some you’ve probably heard of before, include:

  • Apple Watch

  • FitBit

  • Motiv Ring

Phone Applications

Phone apps are extremely beneficial when caring for elderly patients. They can help providers monitor the patients daily and intervene if needed. There are many different applications on the market that help providers monitor their patient depending on what service the patient needs. Some different apps out there allow for:

  • Medication reminders and tracking

  • Blood pressure and heart rate monitoring

  • Panic button features (to alert of a medical emergency)

Medical Alert Devices

For seniors with mobility issues, medical alert devices are a great monitoring option and can be life saving. These devices alert medical personnel if a medical emergency is detected (like if the individual has fallen) or if the patient pushes a button. Some examples of medical alert devices include:

  • Life Alert

  • ADT Health

  • One Call Alert Systems

Skilled Nursing and Assisted Living Facilities

We talked a lot about telehealth and geriatric services for seniors living independently, so what about skilled nursing and assisted living facilities? Virtual care is a huge player in these care centers as well!

Most facilities, if not all, are staffed with nurses (NPs and RNs) to care for the patients in-person. Geriatricians and other specialists part of the patient’s care team are off-site at a hospital or clinic. Telehealth is allowing seniors living in these facilities to dial into their appointments without the hassle of traveling to the doctors office. This makes it easier not only for the patients but for the facilities as they don’t need to arrange transportation to and from the appointment!

As you can see, virtual care has brought and is continuing to bring major benefits to the geriatric care space for patients and their providers. If today’s usage of telemedicine services is any indication for the future, it’s looking like virtual healthcare is here to stay. A win-win-win for patients, providers, and healthcare services across the world!

Power Your Geriatric Care Services

Now that we’ve filled your brain with information about the geriatric space and telehealth’s role, we want to introduce OpenLoop, a partner to power your organization’s virtual care delivery.

OpenLoop partners with assisted living facilities, skilled nursing facilities, and virtual care companies across the country to pair our highly-trained geriatric professionals with your patients. We also offer a full stack of telehealth support behind the scenes to assist with scheduling, compliance, EHR, and visits.

Why do companies partner with us? OpenLoop…

  • Confidently pairs highly-trained geriatricians with your residents and patients

  • Lowers costs through collaborative agreements and NPs where possible

  • Seamlessly scales your services nationwide

Interested in what we can do for your organization? Get in touch here!

Media Contact

Jess Greiner Director, Marketing
jess@openloophealth.com
641.780.1114